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Jonah 3:5 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— And the men of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— And the people of Nineveh believed in God,—and proclaimed a fast, and clothed themselves in sackcloth, from the greatest of them, even unto the least of them.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— And the men of Nineveh believe in God, and proclaim a fast, and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even unto their least,
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— So the people of Nineueh beleeued God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackecloth from the greatest of them euen to the least of them.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— And the men of Nineveh{gr.Nineve} believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloths, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— So the people of Ninweh believed Elohim, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
So the people y582
[0582] Standard
From H0605; properly a mortal (and thus differeing from the more dignified H0120); hence a man in general (singly or collectively). It is often unexpressed in the English Version, especially when used in apposition with another word.
(0376) Complement
Contracted for H0582 (or perhaps rather from an unused root meaning to be extant); a man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation.).
of Nnw נִינוֵה 5210
{5210} Prime
Of foreign origin; Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
believed 539
{0539} Prime
A primitive root; properly to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; figuratively to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be true or certain; once (in Isaiah 30:21; by interchange for H0541) to go to the right hand.
<8686> Grammar
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 4046
lhm אֱלֹהִים, 430
{0430} Prime
Plural of H0433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative.
and proclaimed 7121
{7121} Prime
A primitive root (rather identical with H7122 through the idea of accosting a person met); to call out to (that is, properly address by name, but used in a wide variety of applications).
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
a fast, 6685
{6685} Prime
From H6684; a fast.
and put y3847
[3847] Standard
A primitive root; properly wrap around, that is, (by implication) to put on a garment or clothe (oneself, or another), literally or figuratively.
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
on x3847
(3847) Complement
A primitive root; properly wrap around, that is, (by implication) to put on a garment or clothe (oneself, or another), literally or figuratively.
sackcloth, 8242
{8242} Prime
From H8264; properly a mesh (as allowing a liquid to run through), that is, coarse loose cloth or sacking (used in mourning and for bagging); hence a bag (for grain, etc.).
from the greatest 1419
{1419} Prime
From H1431; great (in any sense); hence older; also insolent.
(4480) Complement
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
of them even to x5704
(5704) Complement
Properly the same as H5703 (used as a preposition, adverb or conjugation; especially with a preposition); as far (or long, or much) as, whether of space (even unto) or time (during, while, until) or degree (equally with).
the least 6996
{6996} Prime
From H6962; abbreviated, that is, diminutive, literally (in quantity, size or number) or figuratively (in age or importance).
of them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Jonah 3:5

_ _ believed God — gave credit to Jonah’s message from God; thus recognizing Jehovah as the true God.

_ _ fast ... sackcloth — In the East outward actions are often used as symbolical expressions of inward feelings. So fasting and clothing in sackcloth were customary in humiliation. Compare in Ahab’s case, parallel to that of Nineveh, both receiving a respite on penitence (1 Kings 21:27; 1 Kings 20:31, 1 Kings 20:32; Joel 1:13).

_ _ from the greatest ... to the least — The penitence was not partial, but pervading all classes.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Jonah 3:5-10

_ _ Here is I. A wonder of divine grace in the repentance and reformation of Nineveh, upon the warning given them of their destruction approaching. Verily I say unto you, we have not found so great an instance of it, no, not in Israel; and it will rise up in judgment against the men of the gospel — generation, and condemn them; for the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonas, but behold, a greater than Jonas is here, Matthew 12:41. Nay, it did condemn the impenitence and obstinacy of Israel at that time. God sent many prophets to Israel, and those well known among them to be mighty in word and deed; but to Nineveh he sent only one, and him a stranger, whose aspect was mean, we may suppose, and his bodily presence weak, especially after the fatigue of so long a journey; and yet they repented, but Israel repented not. Jonah preached but one sermon, and we do not find that he gave them any sign or wonder by the accomplishment of which his word might be confirmed; and yet they were wrought upon, while Israel continued obstinate, whose prophets chose out words wherewith to reason with them, and confirmed them by signs following. Jonah only threatened wrath and ruin; we do not find that he gave them any calls to repentance or directions how to repent, much less any encouragements to hope that they should find mercy if they did repent, much less any encouragements to hope that they should find mercy if they did repent, and yet they repented; but Israel persisted in impertinence, though the prophets sent to them drew them with cords of a man, and with bands of love, and assured them of great things which God would do for them if they did repent and reform. Now let us see what was the method of Nineveh's repentance, what were the steps and particular instances of it.

_ _ 1. They believed God; they gave credit to the word which Jonah spoke to them in the name of God: they believed that though they had many that they called gods, yet there was but one living and true God, the sovereign Lord of all, — that to him they were accountable, — that they had sinned against him and had become obnoxious to his justice, — that this notice sent them of ruin approaching came from him, and consequently that the ruin itself would come from him at a time prefixed if it were not prevented by a timely repentance, — that he is a merciful God, and there might be some hopes of the turning away of the wrath threatened, if they did turn away from the sins for which it was threatened. Note, Those that come to God, that come back to him after they have revolted from him, must believe, must believe that he is, that he is reconcilable, that he will be theirs if they take the right course. And observe what great faith God can work by very small, weak, and unlikely means; he can bring even Ninevites by a few threatening words to be obedient to the faith. Some think the Ninevites heard, from the mariners or others, or from Jonah himself, of his being cast into the sea and delivered thence by miracle, and that this served for a confirmation of his mission, and brought them the more readily to believe God speaking by him. But of this we have no certainty. However, Christ's resurrection, typified by that of Jonah's, served for the confirmation of his gospel, and contributed abundantly to their great success who in his name preached repentance and remission of sins to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

_ _ 2. They brought word to the king of Nineveh, who, some think, was at this time Sardanapalus, others Pul, king of Assyria. Jonah was not directed to go to him first, in respect to his royal dignity; crowned heads, when guilty heads, are before God upon a level with common heads, and therefore Jonah is not sent to the court, but to the streets of Nineveh, to make his proclamation. However, an account of his errand is brought to the king of Nineveh, not by way of information against Jonah, as a disturber of public peace, that he might be silenced and punished, which perhaps would have been done if he had cried thus in the streets of Jerusalem, who killed God's prophets and stoned those that were sent unto her. No; the account was brought him of it, not as of a crime, but as a message from heaven, by some that were concerned for the public welfare, and whose hearts trembled for it. Note, Those kings are happy who have such about them as will give them notice of the things that belong to the kingdom's peace, of the warnings both of the word and of the providence of God, and of the tokens of God's displeasure which they are under; and those people are happy who have such kings over them as will take notice of those things.

_ _ 3. The king set them a good example of humiliation, Jonah 3:6. When he heard of the word of God sent to him he rose from his throne, as Eglon the king of Moab, who, when Ehud told him he had a message to him form God, rose up out of his seat. The king of Nineveh rose from his throne, not only in reverence to a word from God in general, but in fear of a word of wrath in particular, and in sorrow and shame for sin, by which he and his people had become obnoxious to his wrath. He rose from his royal throne, and laid aside his royal robe, the badge of his imperial dignity, as an acknowledgment that, having not used his power as he ought to have done for the restraining of violence and wrong, and the maintaining of right, he had forfeited his throne and robe to the justice of God, had rendered himself unworthy of the honour put upon him and the trust reposed in him as a king, and that it was just with God to take his kingdom from him. Even the king himself disdained not to put on the garb of a penitent, for he covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes, in token of his humiliation for sin and his dread of divine vengeance. It well becomes the greatest of men to abase themselves before the great God.

_ _ 4. The people conformed to the example of the king, nay, it should seem, they led the way, for they first began to put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them, Jonah 3:5. The least of them, that had least to lose in the overthrow of the city, did not think themselves unconcerned in the alarm; and the greatest of them, that were accustomed to lie at ease and live in state, did not think it below them to put on the marks of humiliation. The wearing of sackcloth, especially to those who were used to fine linen, was a very uneasy thing, and they would not have done it if they had not had a deep sense of their sin and their danger by reason of sin, which hereby they designed to express. Note, Those that would not be ruined must be humbled, those that would not destroy their souls must afflict their souls; when God's judgments threaten us we are concerned to humble ourselves under his mighty hand; and though bodily exercise alone profits nothing, and man's spreading sackcloth and ashes under him, if that be all, is but a jest (it is the heart that God looks at, Isaiah 58:5), yet on solemn days of humiliation, when God in his providence calls to mourning and girding with sackcloth, we must by the outward expressions of inward sorrow glorify God with our bodies, at least by laying aside their ornaments.

_ _ 5. A general fast was proclaimed and observed throughout that great city, Jonah 3:7-9. It was ordered by the decree of the king and his nobles; the whole legislative power concurred in appointing it, and the whole body of the people concurred in observing it, and in both these ways it became a national act, and it was necessary that it should be so when it was to prevent a national ruin. We have here the contents of this proclamation, and it is very observable. See here,

_ _ (1.) What it is that is required by it. [1.] That the fast (properly so called) be very strictly observed. On the day appointed for this solemnity, let neither man or beast taste any thing; let them not take the least refreshment, no, no so much as drink water; let them not plead that they cannot fast so long without prejudice to their health, or that they cannot bear it; let them try for once. What if they do feel it an uneasiness, and feel from it for some time after? It is better to submit to that than be wanting in any act or instance of that repentance which is necessary to save a sinking city. Let them make themselves uneasy in body by putting on sackcloth, as well as by fasting, to show how uneasy they are in mind, through sorrow for sin and the fear of divine wrath. Even the beasts must do penance as well as man, because they have been made subject to vanity as instruments of man's sin, and that, either by their complaints or their silent pining for want of meat, they might stir up their owners, and those that attended them, to the expressions of sorrow and humiliation. Those cattle that were kept within doors must not be fed and watered as usual, because no meat must be stirring on that day. Things of that kind must be forgotten, and not minded. As when the psalmist was intent upon the praises of God he called upon the inferior creatures to join with him therein, so when the Ninevites were full of sorrow for sin, and dread of God's judgments, they would have the inferior creatures concur with them in the expressions of penitence. The beasts that used to be covered with rich and fine trappings, which were the pride of their masters, and theirs too, must now be covered with sackcloth; for the great men will (as becomes them) lay aside their equipage. [2.] With their fasting and mourning they must join prayer and supplication to God; for the fasting is designed to fit the body for the service of the soul in the duty of prayer, which is the main matter, and to which the other is but preparatory or subservient. Let them cry mightily to God; let even the brute creatures do it according to their capacity; let their cries and moans for want of food be graciously construed as cries to God, as the cries of the young ravens are (Job 38:41), and of the young lions, Psalms 104:21. But especially let the men, women, and children, cry to God; let them cry mightily for the pardon of the sins which cry against them. It was time to cry to God when there was but a step between them and ruin — high time to seek the Lord. In prayer we must cry mightily, with a fixedness of thought, firmness of faith, and fervour of pious and devout affections. By crying mightily we wrestle with God; we take hold of him; and we are concerned to do so when he is not only departing from us as a friend, but coming forth against us as an enemy. It therefore concerns us in prayer to stir up all that is within us. Yet this is not all; [3.] They must to their fasting and praying add reformation and amendment of life: Let them turn every one from his evil way, the evil way he has chosen, the evil way he is addicted to, and walks in, the evil way of his heart, and the evil way of his conversation, and particularly from the violence that is in their hands; let them restore what they had unjustly taken, and make reparation for what wrong they have done, and let them not any more oppress those they have power over nor defraud those they having dealings with; let the men in authority, at the court-end of the town, turn from the violence that is in their hands, and not decree unrighteous decrees, nor give wrong judgment upon appeals made to them. Let the men of business, at the trading-end of the town, turn from the violence in their hands, and use no unjust weights or measures, nor impose upon the ignorance or necessity of those they trade with. Note, It is not enough to fast for sin, but we must fast from sin, and, in order to the success of our prayers, must no more regard iniquity in our hearts, Psalms 66:18. This is the only fast that God has chosen and will accept, Isaiah 58:6; Zechariah 7:5, Zechariah 7:9. The work of a fast-day is not done with the day; no, then the hardest and most needful part of the work begins, which is to turn from sin, and to live a new life, and not return with the dog to his vomit.

_ _ (2.) Upon what inducement this fast is proclaimed and religiously observed (Jonah 3:9). Who can tell if God will turn and repent? Observe, [1.] What it is that they hope for — that God will, upon their repenting and turning, change his way towards them and revoke his sentence against them, that he will turn from his fierce anger, which they own they deserve and yet humbly and earnestly deprecate, and that thus their ruin will be prevented, and they perish not. They cannot object against the equity of the judgment, they pretend not to set it aside by appealing to a higher court, but hope in God himself, that he will repent, and that his own mercy (to which they fly) shall rejoice against judgment. They believe that God is justly angry with them, that, their sin being very heinous, his anger is very fierce, and that, if he proceed against them, there is no remedy, but they die, they perish, they all perish, and are undone; for who knows the power of his anger? It is not therefore the threatened overthrow that they pray for the prevention of, but the anger of God that they pray for the turning away of. As when we pray for the favour of God we pray for all good, so when we pray against the wrath of God we pray against all evil. [2.] What degree of hope they had of it: Who can tell if God will turn to us? Jonah had not told them; they had not among them any other prophets to tell them, so that they could not be so confident of finding mercy upon their repentance as we may be, who have the promise and oath of God to depend upon, and especially the merit and mediation of Christ to trust to, for pardon upon repentance. Yet they had a a general notion of the goodness of God's nature, his mercy to man, and his being pleased with the repentance and conversion of sinners; and from this they raised some hopes that he would spare them; they dare not presume, but they will not despair. Note, Hope of mercy is the great encouragement to repentance and reformation; and though there be but some glimmerings of hope mixed with great fears arising from a sense of our own sinfulness, and unworthiness, and long abuse of divine patience, yet they may serve to quicken and engage our serious repentance and reformation. Let us boldly cast ourselves at the footstool of free grace, resolving that if we perish, we will perish there; yet who knows but God will look upon us with compassion?

_ _ II. Here is a wonder of divine mercy in the sparing of these Ninevites upon their repentance (Jonah 3:10): God saw their works; he not only heard their good words, by which they professed repentance, but saw their good works, by which they brought forth fruits meet for repentance; he saw that they turned from their evil way, and that was the thing he looked for and required. If he had not seen that, their fasting and sackcloth would have been as nothing in his account. He saw there was among them a general conviction of their sins and a general resolution not to return to them, and that for some days they lived better, and there was a new face of things upon the city; and this he was well pleased with. Note, God takes notice of every instance of the reformation of sinners, even those instances that fall not under the cognizance and observation of the world. He sees who turn from their evil way and who do not, and meets those with favour that meet him in a sincere conversion. When they repent of the evil of sin committed by them he repents of the evil of judgment pronounced against them. Thus he spared Nineveh, and did not the evil which he said he would do against it. Here were no sacrifices offered to God, that we read of, to make atonement for sin, but the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, such as the Ninevites now had, it what he will not despise; it is what he will give countenance to and put honour upon.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Jonah 3:5

From the greatest — Great and small, rich and poor.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Jonah 3:5

So the people of Nineveh (d) believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

(d) For he declared that he was a Prophet sent to them from God, to make known his judgments against them.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance

Exodus 9:18-21 Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. ... And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.
Luke 11:32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.
Acts 27:25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

and proclaimed:

2 Chronicles 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Ezra 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Jeremiah 36:9 And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, [that] they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.
Joel 1:14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders [and] all the inhabitants of the land [into] the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,
Joel 2:12-17 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: ... Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where [is] their God?


Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Jeremiah 42:1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,
Jeremiah 42:8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which [were] with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest,
Acts 8:10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
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Ex 9:18. 2Ch 20:3. Ezr 8:21. Jr 31:34; 36:9; 42:1, 8. Jol 1:14; 2:12. Mt 12:41. Lk 11:32. Ac 8:10; 27:25. He 11:1, 7.

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